Butter Chicken

indian butter chicken
Photo: Bryan Gardner
Prep Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
4 hrs 55 mins

Also known as murgh makhani, this famous Indian dish is probably only rivaled in popularity by chicken tikka masala. Dinner takes on an intoxicating aroma as the chicken cooks in the creamy tomato sauce, thanks to the combination of garam masala and toasted cumin.



  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 ½ cups plain yogurt (not Greek)

  • 1 teaspoon grated garlic (from 1 clove)

  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (from a peeled 2-inch piece)

  • 2 teaspoons garam masala


  • 1 ¼ cups heavy cream

  • 1 teaspoon garam masala

  • 1 serrano chile, finely chopped (1 tablespoon)

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from ½ lemon)

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground (or ½ teaspoon ground cumin)

  • Kosher salt

  • 4 ounces ghee (½ cup), or 1 stick unsalted butter

  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced (2 cups)

  • ¼ cup tomato paste

  • Naan, cooked basmati rice, and cilantro sprigs, for serving


  1. Chicken: In a medium bowl, toss together chicken, lemon, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add yogurt, garlic, ginger, and garam masala; stir to thoroughly combine. Cover with plastic; let marinate in refrigerator, at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

  2. Preheat broiler with rack 6 inches from heating element. Transfer chicken to a colander or sieve over the sink (do not rinse), shaking to drain excess yogurt. Spread in a single layer on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Broil, turning once halfway through with a metal spatula, until cooked through and charred in places, 10 minutes. Remove from oven; set aside.

  3. Sauce: In a 2-cup liquid-measuring cup or a medium bowl, whisk together cream, garam masala, serrano, lemon juice, cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt; set aside.

  4. Melt ghee in a large straight-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt; cook until softened and golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook until darkened, about 1 minute. Stir in cream mixture. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring, until well combined, thickened, and glossy, about 5 minutes. Add chicken and cook until heated through, about 1 minute more.

  5. Serve immediately, with naan, basmati rice, and cilantro.

Cook's Notes

The chicken in this recipe becomes more tender and flavorful the longer it marinates; if possible, marinate the chicken the night before cooking.

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